Sky High (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

If Dubai were a Christmas present under a Christmas tree, it would be the one that's not too big, not too small, but modestly tucked towards the back. It is the present that just pops because it's wrapped in solid, metallic gold wrapping, sporting a bronze-coloured ribbon. You might assume it has some luxury chocolate in it or something like that. Dubai isn't necessarily full of chocolate, but it is a luxury gift, encompassing luxury at every single turn. Dubai is the only city I know that doesn't have flabby bits to hide. Even the sandy back-streets of Old Dubai have a characteristic charm that, although centuries away from the Burj Khalifa, tells its own glory story.

I had a brilliant last few days in Kathmandu, and after my ordeal in the mountain village, I felt so accustomed to the culture that I could relate to it a lot better. This set the good mood for my next journey, Kathmandu to Dubai. I knew that if I could rely on my wits in Nepal, I could surely explore Dubai confidently.


I stayed with a couple in Dubai, friends of a friend of my mam. I had never met them before, but they offered to let me stay a few days. I was passing through Dubai anyways, so I didn't see why not! All I had was their address scribbled in my journal. I alighted at Dubai International Airport and made my way to the taxi rank. I presented my journal to the taxi driver, which was stained with red mud and dirt. I was taken to Dubai Marina, where I would be staying.

I got out of my taxi and a suited man took my backpack. I was confused. I looked up and was defeated at the sight of a high-rise Marriott hotel, with royal-blue neon lights racing up its astonishing height. And I thought the views from the taxi were enough! I was led to the reception, and had my hosts contacted. Did they live in a hotel? There seemed to be plenty of apartments around to live in. I was sent up in a lift to meet them on the fourth floor. I stood there in a 4x4 metre box that was clad with gold varnish, toffee marble and gleaming mirrors. I felt like a peasant, with orange Himalayan dirt still under my fingernails and streaked on my clothes and boots. I met the wife, Liz, who greeted me warmly and led me through the car-park into their room. 

It wasn't just a room, it was an entire apartment with multiple bedrooms - absolute luxury pad. It turned out they bought the room off Marriott because it didn't fit the hotel chain's image; that is, a guest shouldn't have to walk through a car park to get to their room. Alrighty then! I was off to sleep after introductions and a long, hot shower.

I woke up the next day and was straight out the door to explore. Liz and Dave never joined me much. It was established before I arrived that I was happy to do my own thing, and they had things to do themselves, so it was harmonious. I think I preferred it that way too! I wandered around the marina, which was baking under the intense heat, and I grabbed a Starbucks breakfast. I sat watching the yachts, feeling like Kim Kardashian, but far more useful!




After wandering for a good 2/3 hours, Liz offered to drive me along to Dubai Mall, as she was headed in that direction for errands. I eagerly tagged along, and noticed something bad en route. I started to feel very very queasy. It became undoubted, I was about to throw up. I made no secret of this in the car, and it turned from a leisurely drive along Dubai strip to a frantic race to the mall's side entrance. I jumped out of the car, swiping my bag with me, yelled goodbye and ran inside to the toilets.


One hour and thirty minutes later, after I finished throwing up, I decided I had to pull myself together, or head back to the apartment. The only thing that stopped me heading back to the apartment is that I had pre-booked an elevator ride up the Burj Khalifa - tallest building in the world. Now that's an opportunity you cannot miss right? Don't worry, I wasn't prepared to let an opportunity like that slip!

I was a sweating, tired mess, but still navigated the mall and explored as much as I could. I raced back to the toilets twice to be sick further, one incident of which I was paroozing Louis Vuitton and had to leave before I threw up in a purse. I persisted. I had only half an hour to go before my scheduled elevator ride, which I had to collect from the basement of the mall. I headed down there and dwelled, waiting. By pure accident I walked out of a sub-exit and was flooded with intense, natural light. As my eyes focussed, I looked up at the most amazing thing I have ever seen - and the biggest!


The Burj Khalifa. Tallest in the world. I had to wait only 20 minutes to head up it, so I headed back inside and waited to board the elevator up to the observation deck. This elevator was special, it ascended at a body-organ-dunking 10 metres per second. I felt every metre, and every second. It was worth it, and this is why:




I spent almost an hour up here just looking, and being a good citizen by helping wheelchair-users take some pictures! But I had to return to earth, so it was back down I went. The rest of the day was exploring the mall's quirks, and the romantic fountains and promenade outside!





Dubai is amazing with its malls. Malls in England are a mess, with shops intertwined and scattered everywhere. In Dubai, however, one floor is for fashion, one floor is for technology, one floor is for FOOD. So you just make your way between floors to whatever you fancy. Also, did you know there were SO many technology shops? I didn't...

It was getting dark, and I had to go home. I had to take the Dubai Metro back to the Marina. The metro system is fantastic and extremely clean. You don't get strange men talking to themselves like they do on Newcastle's metro. There were actual civilised people travelling on this one. They also have a women-only carriage. A lot of people are confused about this. Women don't have to go into this carriage; it's optional. It appeared to be used only by muslim women, perhaps very strict to Islam.

I arrived back at the Marina, which was looking extremely glamourous and glittery at night. I couldn't help but grab a Starbucks dinner after having eaten nothing since throwing up!



I retreated back to the apartment, filled in Dave and Liz about my day's adventures, and then promptly nodded off.

I woke up on my last day with a spark. I was going to see something new today, or rather not. I was going to see Old Dubai, which is a very different Dubai compared to what I've been writing about. Old Dubai is where Dubai started. For thousands of years, the Dubai creek has been established as a portal between the East and the West - not so much a portal as in Stargate, but a portal for trade and travel, and that tradition is still very much alive. Liz drove me along to the creek, and from there I was left to my own devices. 


I wanted to see the souk markets, which were on the other side of the creek. A small amount of money and a boat sorted that out!



The markets were incredibly intense. Not only the shops and the amount of GOLD, but the amount of men nagging for you to buy things. White skin made me a formidable visitor it seemed, and one man literally pulled me into his stall and threw tea-towels at me. Because of this, I didn't want to further emboss myself as a tourist by snapping pictures, so I don't have any of the souk market!

I was told by Liz that I had to go to Dubai Museum. Museums aren't my thing, especially when travelling. Personally I think you should swot up on the history, culture, etc. before you leave home, and not leave it until you're actually there! It wastes time! So, I just went in and faffed about with the props instead:




I travelled back across the creek to meet Liz, and we drove back to the apartment for the last time. I managed to nab a snap of the Burj-al-Arab en route also:


That was the icing on the cake! My flight was in the morning, and I was satisfied I saw everything - or at least the main stuff! There was only one thing I had to do, which was burning on my tired little brain all day, relax in the hotel spa!!!




That was the perfect end to my stay in Dubai. I had an early night - my flight home was at 5am the next day. It had been a marvellous adventure. Perhaps I will go back one day, and experience the luxury with a lot more money, instead of my impoverished student wallet!

I returned home, hungry as ever!

Anthony

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